Restaurant with house in Ridgefield: A lifestyle is for sale

With Bernard’s on the market, Sarah Bouissou feels like it’s not just her restaurant that’s for sale, she and her husband are offering someone — or some young couple — a chance to become part of a community: Ridgefield.

“About 22 years ago when Bernard and I started thinking about opening a restaurant, we’d say: In a perfect world we’re going to find a restaurant with a house on the property where we can raise our kids in a wonderful community, where we can be part of that community,” Bouissou said.

“We kind of had our perfect world, and now in our perfect world we’re going to find somebody to pass this baton on to, and come and sit in this dining room and have dinner,” she said.

“We’ve worked really hard.”

The restaurant is in a 145-year-old building a stone’s throw from Ridgefield’s iconic Cass Gilbert Fountain. Entrees served in the garden these days include “grilled swordfish with roasted corn, garden garlic chive mashed potatoes, Japanese eggplant and zucchini blossom tempura with lemon ginger beurre blanc” for $34. Among the appetizers on offer is “homemade ricotta ravioli” with asparagus, garbanzo beans and “garden swiss chard, sautéed chanterelles” made with sage brown butter” for $18.

The restaurant can be had — along with a six-bedroom house and two acres of land — for under $3 million.

“We opened in March of 2000,” said Bouissou said.

The restaurant she and her husband, Bernard Bouissou bought already had a considerable culinary history, with previous incarnations that included The Inn at Ridgefield and Tode’s Inn, which was opened by French-born chef Walter Tode a year or two after World War II.

While the Bouissous are marketing the property and business, they say they’re not in a hurry to sell.

“Bernard and I have been here for 20 years. Our goal was always to be here 20 to 25 years,” Bouissou said. “So even if we’re here a couple more years, we’re good.”

“We also have a 6 bedroom house, with one child at home,” she said. “We just don’t need all this space.”


They hope to remain in Ridgefield.

“We’ve really loved being a part of the community and our plan is to stay part of it, just in smaller capacity,” Bouissou said.

They’re hoping to find “a younger version of Bernard and I, somebody who can raise their family and have all the great things we had.”

That includes having a restaurant and house together on the same site.

“One of the great things,” she said, “...was being able to see your family. Being a parking lot away made it so we can raise them.

“When we moved here they were 3,4,7 and 8 — four girls,” she said.

“They all went through the Ridgefield School System, and have gone on to be lovely accomplished humans, out in the world.

“We’ve got vegetable gardens, a swimming pool, six bedrooms, chickens, rabbits — we don’t have a goat,” Bouissou said. “My daughters wanted a goat for a long time.”

Kitchen romance

Sarah Bouissou grew up in New Jersey. Bernard Bouissou grew up in France.

“We met cooking at Le Cirque in New York,” she said. “I was the first female line chef there, back in the ’80s. That’s when Bernard and I met. We were working side by side.”

Bouissou thinks their two-acre property has a lot going for it, and is well adapted to the current times.

“I’ve got a large outdoor dining space and restaurants need more space to do the 6 feet apart inside and outside,” she said.

“The restaurant building was built in 1875. We’ve got four dinning rooms on the main floor, two fireplaces, and on second floor another dining room that’s been Sarah’s Wine Bar with a fireplace as well, and on the third floor we’ve got rooms we use as storage and staff locker rooms.

“Right now, with the COVID restrictions we have 35 tables, between the five dining rooms. And outside in the garden we’ve got 32, but they’re very far apart. We could possibly put out another 10.

With COVID-19 protocols requiring tables be at least 6 feet apart, Bouissou said Bernard’s has been arranging their outdoor tables even further apart — to make customers feel more at ease.

“We’ve found the more comfortable they are, the more often they come,” she said.

Business has been good, according to Bouissou, especially with all the nice weather there has been.

“It’s been very good. On nice day, we’ll have 250 people. On a rainy day, we’ll do 10 — that’s until there’s a comfort level of people being inside.

“Once there’s no more choice of being outside, people will come and see: ‘I’m comfortable with this.’ Or they won’t, in which case we’ll go back to doing more take out.”

Word that the property is on the market has upset some of the Bouissous’ friends and regular customers at Bernard’s.

“I’m getting lot so phone calls, emails, from people saying ‘Oh, no! What’s the matter?’ Really, nothing’s the matter,” she said.

“It’s just we’ve been working — the restaurant industry is a lot of work, and we’ve been doing it for a really long time. And we just want to start to have a little more — we want to be sitting in those chairs.

“Business is good. We love what we do. We love Ridgefield, we’d love to stay here. It’s kind of our plan, but we don’t know what our next chapter is,” she said. “We’d like to maybe take a little bit of time and relax.”